Azizur Rahman Choudhury was a guardian, friend, and story-teller
My Nana (maternal grandfather), Azizur Rahman Choudhury, passed away in December of 2018. He would have turned 93 this year.
Let me start things off by saying that my Nana was an awesome person. He was funny, progressive, and the most fashionable grandfather you could ever meet. Imagine this 90-year-old guy in Adidas shoes that he had picked out for himself, with some khaki slacks, a polished button-down, and Ray-bans. That was my grandfather.
I was only 12 when he passed away two years ago, but I can talk about him forever.
Though I had dealt with death before, things were different when Nana left.
After my parents’ divorce in 2010, my grandfather helped make moving back to Bangladesh a comfortable option for my mother. It was difficult for a single mother with two naughty kids to move to another country as you might imagine. But Nana was willing to change his life to protect the three of us.
It wasn’t the first time Nana had done something like this. In 1996, after my Nanu (maternal grandmother) passed away, my Ma was a young student living alone in the United States, and my aunt was occupied with raising her young kids. Nanu’s death shocked the whole family and wasn’t easy to come to terms with for anybody. But in the following years, Nana did what he could to compensate for the loss in a way not many expected.
You see, Nana was a different father when my aunt, mother, and uncle were all growing up. He went to work every morning, came home, had some tea, read the paper, and maybe watched some television. He had a soft side, of course, but was quick to assume the role of the traditional patriarch of the family.
But when Nanu passed away, he left all that behind. Later, he never brought up these acts of compassion in ways that some of my family might have. That wasn’t Nana.
In late August of 2018, I learned that Nana was sick. It may seem silly for a 14-year-old to look back at her slightly younger self in such a way, but I realize now that the whole thing had not really “clicked” for me.
My mindset really was different back then. As was everything, so was sickness. From sickness, life progresses, and people just get better.
Something I think that will always stick with me about that time, late 2018, was our increasing visits to California.
We went over and over (at some point every month) to visit my grandfather and to do our best to help my aunt in caring for Nana.
Before 2018, we’d visit California once or twice a year during school vacations. In the moments when my family could pry me away from the computer or the TV, I mostly sat with Nana on the backyard porch or maybe went out with him for a walk. On our walks, both at that time and earlier, I remember asking him about my late Nanu.
Nana was very lively for his age. Most people he met could hardly believe his age. I remember him being there, never making me feel like a pesky kid bugging him with strange questions.
That was something I was used to, feeling like a “baby” to the rest of my family.
But not with Nana. If ever I said something juvenile or was being nosy, he’d just laugh, amused. You couldn’t watch Nana laugh and not smile. I'm convinced it wasn’t humanly possible.
During our walks, I don’t remember Nana telling me to look around and notice the trees, the skies, the birds -- the way older relatives do. I just remember him looking.
I remember him looking with such a simple yet contemplative expression that it made you want to see whatever he must’ve been seeing too. That was the thing about Nana, he could get me interested without uttering a word.
On personal subjects or stories from the past, Nana wasn’t much of a storyteller unless you made an event of it, the way I used to. He just lived and enjoyed the moment. Everything about Nana told a story, in a way it didn’t with others. Just as he let the world speak for itself, he let his actions speak for themselves.
Thinking about it now, I realize it was because of Nanu and Nana and their united front that my mother, my aunt, and the rest of my family were instilled with such compassion. They would never hesitate to help those in need, especially their own family. Because of Nana and Nanu, I can be proud to belong to a very, very selfless family.
Of all the questions and stories I’ve asked Nana about, I know there could have been more. Near the end, he used to tell us that he would see us in his dreams, which is something that I wish I asked him more about.
On December 29 of this year, it will have been two years since Nana left us. I’ll forever be inspired by how Nana fought to stay with us until the very end.
I never had much of a father figure in my life, but my Nana was a great role model. He was there for me, for my family, and I think I owe it to him (and my Khalu, too) for being good examples of the honourable and compassionate men that are out there.
I miss you, Nana. Everyone does. Your great-grandchild, beautiful and healthy (mashallah), really misses you, too. After you passed, she said she wanted to go and play with you wherever you were. I promise I’ll tell her all the stories and answer all her questions, so she can feel as close to you as we all were.
Ami tomake khubi bhalobashi, Nana. See you in the future, Inshallah.
Deya Nurani writes about her nana from Seoul, South Korea.